Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Officials call for cross-sector response to future pandemics

Officials call for cross-sector response to future pandemics

Officials call for cross-sector response to future pandemics

CAMBODIA and other ASEAN member countries needed to look beyond the health sector in preparing for future pandemics, authorities said yesterday, during the opening ceremony of a workshop touted as a global first.

The five-day Southeast Asia Regional Multisectoral Pandemic Preparedness and Response Tabletop Exercise, which started in Phnom Penh yesterday, was expected to bring together around 170 high-level government, UN and civil society participants.

During a speech to open the event, ASEAN secretary general Surin Pitsuwan said it was important to develop preparedness plans that went beyond the scope and responsibilities of the health sector in order to mitigate the damage a pandemic could cause.

“A severe pandemic would require an emergency re-sponse beyond what the health sector is organised and able to provide,” he said.

Surin said a severe pandemic with high death rates “could lead to severe social and economic disruptions due to discontinuity of essential services, operations and businesses; in other words the breakdown, the meltdown, of entire societies”, and that it was realistic to expect and be prepared for such events.

“We are here today because we all realise that the occurrence of a devastating pandemic is not science fiction,” Surin said.

He saud seven additional sectors – food, energy, water and sanitation, telecommunications, finance, public security and public transportation – could all play key roles in the event of a pandemic.

Dr Pieter van Maaren, country representative for the World Health Organisation, said that in addition to developing a multi-sector response to pandemics, it was important to develop cooperation between ASEAN countries.

“A pandemic, by its nature, will affect all countries to a varying extent, and individual countries will respond to it as they see fit, but the response will be stronger if a regional coordination can support individual countries,” he said.

He said that the WHO had announced last week that globally the A(H1N1) virus, commonly known as swine flu, had entered its post-pandemic phase.

That does not mean swine flu has been eliminated: Figures from the Health Ministry’s Communicable Diseases Control Department show that the number of diagnosed cases continues to rise in the Kingdom, with 49 identified over the two-week period between July 29 and August 12.

As of August 12, a total of 740 cases had been diagnosed since the virus was first identified in the Kingdom in June last year.

Representatives from nine out of the 10 ASEAN member states were expected to participate in this week’s event, with delegates from Myanmar unable to attend because of administrative difficulties.


  • Hun Sen ready to ‘break record’, says Rainsy lost

    Caretaker prime minister Hun Sen used a meeting with 18,400 factory workers on Wednesday to predict that he would beat the record for being the world’s longest-serving non-royal leader. He also used the platform to slam political opponent Sam Rainsy who he said had lost

  • Sihanoukville land prices skyrocketing amid breakneck development

    Sihanoukville, the Kingdom’s most famous beach destination for tourists, is seemingly becoming a paradise for Chinese investors as well. The huge influx of Chinese investors has caused property values to rise, especially the price of land, which has nearly doubled in some places near

  • US names new ambassador to Cambodia

    US President Donald Trump on Friday appointed W Patrick Murphy as the new US Ambassador to Cambodia, replacing incumbent William A Heidt. A press release posted on the White House’s website said nominee W Patrick Murphy is currently acting principal deputy assistant secretary at

  • Kingdom is at a crossroads between East, West after poll

    It was dubbed a success by caretaker prime minister Hun Sen after the electoral victory of his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), which is poised to take all seats in the National Assembly. But the July 29 national election has not been positively looked at by